Uproar after land invaders allegedly build homes on top of graves in Pietermaritzburg

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People are allegedly building houses on top of the graves at Azalea Cemetery in Edendale.
People are allegedly building houses on top of the graves at Azalea Cemetery in Edendale.
Moeketsi Mamane

The Azalea Cemetery, in Edendale, has allegedly been invaded by a group of people who are building houses on top of graves

Families of those buried there have raised concerns about the invasion, saying it deprived their loved ones of the dignity they deserved.

“I have taken it upon myself that I will monitor the place every two weeks to make sure that no one is building where my father was buried.”
Sikhanyiso Zuma from KwaPata

Azalea residents say they suspect someone has been selling the land to the people who are building there.

Apart from houses being built in the cemetery, part of the graveyard has also been turned into an illegal dump.

Rubbish found illegally dumped at Azalea Cemetery in Edendale.

Sikhanyiso Zuma from KwaPata said his father’s grave was among those that were cleared to mark building plots.

He said his father’s grave had a tombstone on it that was allegedly destroyed by the people who were marking the plots. “I have taken it upon myself that I will monitor the place every two weeks to make sure that no one is building where my father was buried.”

Zuma said he believed in visiting the graves of his loved ones, so he was not going to let his father’s disappear.

“What am I going tell my children if they ask about their grandfather’s grave if I don’t stop those people from building on top of it?”
Sikhanyiso Zuma from KwaPata

“What am I going tell my children if they ask about their grandfather’s grave if I don’t stop those people from building on top of it?”

He said the affected families wanted the Msunduzi Municipality to intervene to protect the cemetery from invaders.

A mother whose child was buried there several years ago, who asked not to be named, told The Witness that she was shocked when she discovered illegal dumping on top of her child’s grave last Friday. She said she had gone to check the grave since the family was planning on doing a traditional ceremony for the child.

“I was so hurt to see what I found there. Even now I am still heartbroken ... There is an unbearable smell. How can you turn someone’s grave into a dumping site?”

She said what was most distressing, however, were the houses that were being built in the cemetery.

“What if there are other people who decide to build a house on my child’s grave? When you go there [you] can see they are removing graves so they can build their houses.”
Local resident

She said some of them were very close to her child’s grave.

“What if there are other people who decide to build a house on my child’s grave? When you go there [you] can see they are removing graves so they can build their houses,” she said.

The worried mother said if she had the means, she would exhume her child’s body and bury it somewhere else where the grave would be respected and treated with dignity.

“We [the family] are even thinking of coming to the grave site every week now to monitor what is happening before we find a house on top of my child’s grave.

“What is happening here is really bad and I do not understand why the municipality is not doing anything about it,” she said.

One of the buildings built illegally at Azalea Cemetery in Edendale.

When The Witness visited the cemetery, there were sites that were already prepared for building and people had already built houses and shacks where some of the graves used to be. There were also piles of rubbish around the cemetery.

“The municipality takes land invasion seriously and all efforts will be made to stop such actions.”
Ntobeko Mkhize, Msunduzi Municipality

Msunduzi Municipality’s Ntobeko Mkhize said the City was aware of the matter and the anti-land invasion unit had demolished the illegal structures at the cemetery.

“The municipality takes land invasion seriously and all efforts will be made to stop such actions.

“The relevant officials are also seeking an intervention from the legal department,” she said.

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